In a COVID-Induced Reimagining of Housing, the University Has Organized Monthly Leases for Students at Sophy and Hyatt Place Hotels

To meet increased need for off-campus housing, the Sophy and Hyatt Place hotels design student packages


The interior of the Sophy hotel.

By Kate Mabus

As the University prepares to open campus this fall, housing and residence life must change in order to ensure social distancing. Under social distancing precautions, typically vibrant and bustling dorm spaces will look quite different, with empty house lounges and community spaces like kitchens and study rooms dark and locked up. 

An email sent to the University community on June 30 announced that residence halls will operate at 60 percent capacity during autumn quarter. All rooms will be single occupancy with bathroom designations that restrict those communal spaces to a 3:1 fixture count. 

To accommodate for the limited on-campus housing, the requirement for students to live on campus for six quarters, which would have taken its first effect for second-years this fall, has been waived. Incoming first-years are expected to live in residence halls and the remaining on-campus capacity has been prioritized for second-years. Third- and fourth-years who wish to live on-campus are placed on a waitlist for the limited space not filled by first- and second-years.  

Danika Kmetz, assistant director of College communications, told The Maroon that “Housing & Residence Life thus far has been able to accommodate all requests for on-campus housing from incoming and returning students who participated in room selection.”  

With the reduced on-campus capacity, it is likely more students will be moving into the surrounding Hyde Park neighborhood than normal. To facilitate the increased need for off-campus housing, the University worked with local rental agencies to identify off-campus housing options. These options were listed in an “Apartment Resources” document and a  guide to “Finding an Off-Campus Apartment,” shared in an email to the College community. 

Two unconventional options listed were new student residences in the Sophy and Hyatt Place hotels. The University partnered with Olympia Hotel Management to develop student housing plans for the upcoming school year. All rooms will be single-occupancy on designated student floors to limit contact with other hotel guests. Accommodations include a weekly housekeeping service and take-away continental breakfast bags each morning.  

Whereas a regular guest at a typical hotel room would pay on a per-night basis, students will pay a tax-exclusive, monthly flat rate. The cost of a student room in the Hyatt is $2,300 per month and $3,000 per month for the Sophy.  

In comparison, UChicago’s room rate for the 2020–21 school year is $3,472 per quarter, which is approximately $1,352 per month for a regular, 11-week quarter. According to a report conducted by the rental site Rent Jungle in June of this year, the average rent of a one-bedroom apartment in Hyde Park was $1,679 a month.  

In the College’s first email, it announced that all students on financial aid will receive an additional aid package in order to support any increased costs associated with off-campus living such as rent or food expenses.  

The College is still collecting data on the number of students returning to campus and the distribution of students living in off-campus housing, Kmetz told The Maroon. At this point, rental agencies have indicated to the College that there are still available rental units around campus and they expect more will open up in the coming weeks.